Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Not known, because not looked for. . ."

Once I asked my dear friend, Pat Shelley, about her favorite poetry.  Eliot's Four Quartets, she said without hesitation. And, since I didn't really know them well, we soon talked about something else. Last week, I remembered and got a copy. The big surprise to me was how familiar much of it was, especially the first part: Burnt Norton. Perhaps I had studied it in some class in the far distant formal education past. The second thing I noticed is the beauty of the rhythms of the English language, which seem to build on the rhythm of all our poetries that have gone before, including the King James Bible! In fact, the language is so beautiful that it is quite easy not to examine the thought, but just to be entranced by the sounds of the words.
I am giving you the very end of the final section: Little Gidding, and thus the end of the poem. I cannot really explain all the meaning, but I surely LOVE the sound of it, so when I wanted to find something to go with this picture of ethereal winter light from late January, I chose this. Many other passages might have done as well, probably. I notice, as opposed to some of my other recent choices (W. S. Merwin, Bei Dao) that Eliot makes full use of the methods of controlling the sounds in a poem--linebreaks, commas, semi-colon, hyphen, dash, parentheses--as well as preferring the classic Initial Capitals on each line. It's all available to us as poets--all the time!

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one."

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, Little Gidding, page 59 of The Four Quartets; the Centenary Edition.

If you are still with me now, I would like to mention the books by Kim Stafford I have been reading lately, especially his memoir, 100 Tricks Any Boy Can Do, and The Muses Among Us; eloquent listening and other pleasures of the writer's craft. I have these both on my Kindle and will be referring to Muses frequently over the next few months. The big discovery here is how you can make substantial works out of small stuff you can gather all the time. I'll talk more about this later, but I think it is something I needed to consider. Good Night!
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